LHT Historic Site – The Farm Across the Road
The Farm Across the Road
Across Old Mill Road, in amongst the trees, is a cluster of historic timber-framed buildings – a large farmhouse, an even larger barn with three ornate cupolas protruding from its ridge, a combination corn crib and wagon house, and several other structures. This picturesque group of buildings, mostly 19th and early 20th century in their outward appearance, reflects some three centuries of farming history in the gently rolling countryside around the village of Pennington.
The occupants of farms like these labored long and hard on the land, raising crops and livestock, tending woods, orchards and vegetable gardens, producing enough to support their growing families and a surplus for sale at local markets.
In the 1870s, the Chamberlin family farmed 143 fertile acres along the banks of Stony Brook (Everts & Stewart, Atlas of Mercer County, New Jersey, 1875).
In the mid-18th century, this farm was in the hands of the Polhemus family; in 1775 it passed to the Vankirks – Joseph, Josiah and John. In 1811, Peter S. Schenck, a son-in-law of Josiah Vankirk, took over the farm, making a name for himself as a horse breeder. All three families were of Dutch extraction and throughout this period the farm property also supported a gristmill and sawmill on nearby Stony Brook. Family members and one or two enslaved persons provided the farm and mill labor.
Following Peter Schenck’s death in 1840, the mill was sold off separately; then, in 1848, the Schenck estate sold the farm to Jonathan Chamberlin.
Two generations of Chamberlins farmed the property, which at its peak just before the Civil War amounted to almost 300 acres. By the turn of the 20th century, many central New Jersey farms were shifting their emphasis to dairying and horticulture, two specialties that found a ready market in New York, Philadelphia and other nearby cities.
In 1902, Pennington developer and entrepreneur Colonel John Kunkel acquired the old Chamberlin farm and established the Eglantine Dairy.
Colonel John A. Kunkel (1834-1921), New York City butter merchant and Pennington developer and philanthropist, circa 1895 (George H. Frisbie Photograph Collection, Hopewell Valley Historical Society).
He equipped the dairy with modern pasteurizing, cream separating and butter making machinery, and hired James Twilling, an experienced Danish dairyman, to manage the operation. Ownership of the dairy passed from Kunkel to Charles H. Bahrenburg of New York in 1908, who in turn sold the business to Edward Schaafsma of Billings, Montana, in 1920.
The large barn, built around 1902, was the focus of the Eglantine Dairy and home to a sizeable herd of milk cows. The cows were milked and fed in the barn basement; feed and grain were stashed in the upper levels. The cupolas supplied much-needed ventilation.
The Eglantine Dairy churned out quality milk products for almost three decades beginning around 1902.
Hopewell Valley Historical Society
The Eglantine Dairy made use of a Farrington pasteurizer and cooler similar to this model.
(The Creamery Package Mfg. Company, General Catalog No. 350, 1912)